Xenia Pestova Bennett: piano
Ed Bennett: electronics
Karlheinz Essl & Xenia Pestova Bennett
|Released on November 12, 2021|
J.S. BACH / KARLHEINZ ESSL
Ergodos is proud to release Gold.Berg.Werk, a radical re-interpretation of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl, performed by pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett, with live electronic diffusion by Ed Bennett. The Goldberg Variations form a cornerstone of keyboard repertoire, yet we rarely question the mode of presentation for this work. Here, Essl offers a refreshing glimpse of a new performance practice: gorgeous time-stretched harmonies are manipulated in real time and played back through spatialised loudspeakers in between the piano variations, bringing together Baroque and contemporary sound worlds.
An additional binaural recording is available to download with this release.
It’s one of the most sublime but daunting pieces of music ever written for a pianist to play but now J.S Bach’s seminal work, the "Goldberg Variations", has been performed and recorded as never before.
This new and ground-breaking album is called Gold.Berg.Werk, to imply the ‘mining’ of the Goldberg Aria and its 30 variations. It has been written by Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl as a radical reinterpretation of Bach’s original work of 1741 using both classical piano and the latest electro-acoustic technology in live performance.
The Goldberg Variations form a cornerstone of keyboard repertoire and Essl’s highly original interpretation reveals how well-known classical works can be transformed by new kinds of performance practice. The familiar themes, rhythms and harmonies are time-stretched, manipulated and played back using electro-acoustic technology, uniting Baroque and contemporary sounds in real time.
Karlheinz Essl has inserted electro-acoustic interludes that are generated live and spatialised using a small loudspeaker inside the piano with further loudspeakers behind the audience. The sound moves between these, and the order of the variations is changed giving a very fresh take on this famous piece by Bach. It means no two performances are the same due to the live generation of the electronic interludes.
Pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett said: “The very idea of tackling the Goldberg Variations, places an enormous psychological weight of tradition on any keyboard player brave or foolish enough to do so. It is a monumental undertaking for any keyboard player to perform. However, rather than presenting this work as a fixed artefact behind dusty museum glass, or trying to match existing interpretations, I find that it helps to view it as a living and evolving organism. Karlheinz Essl’s Gold.Berg.Werk, a new piece in its own right, takes Bach’s music as a point of departure and offers a fresh perspective.”
Composer Karlheinz Essl said: “Our new interpretation bridges the gap between the sound world of the Baroque era and the sonic reality of the 3rd millennium. My electronics are based on the harmonic progression of the fundamental Aria, from which I stripped all figurations and ornaments. The ‘reduced’ Aria was originally recorded using a string trio in a series of sound experiments. Using a computer programme, I started to improvise with this recorded material and found myself travelling through a microscope into the inner world of the sounds, allowing me to compress, stretch and stop the improvisation at liberty. It released the Aria from its temporal corset and adds a whole new level of ‘variations’ to Bach’s originals.”
Xenia Pestova Bennett about Karlheinz Essl's Gold.Berg.Werk
Xenia Pestova Bennett is an innovative performer and educator. Described as “a powerhouse of contemporary keyboard repertoire” (Tempo), “stunning” (Wales Arts Review), “ravishing” (Pizzicato) and “remarkably sensuous” (New Zealand Herald) in the international press, she has earned a reputation as a leading interpreter of uncompromising repertoire alongside masterpieces from the past. Dr Pestova Bennett’s commitment and dedication to promoting music by living composers led her to commission dozens of new works and collaborate with major innovators in contemporary music. Her widely acclaimed recordings of core piano duo works of the Twentieth Century by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen are available on four CDs for Naxos Records. Her evocative solo debut of premiere recordings for the Innova label titled “Shadow Piano” was described as a “terrific album of dark, probing music” by the Chicago Reader. In addition to her career as an interpreter, she is active as an improviser, composer and educator. She is the Director of Performance at the University of Nottingham and also provides wellness coaching to individuals and businesses on work-life balance and dealing with performance anxiety.
The music of Ed Bennett, which has been described in the press as ‘Deeply compelling’ (Sunday Times), ‘stunningly intense’ (the Quietus) and ‘unmistakably distinctive’ (Gramophone) is often characterised by its strong rhythmic energy, extreme contrasts and the combination of acoustic, electronic and multimedia elements; it was described in The Guardian as ‘unclassifiable, raw-nerve music of huge energy and imagination’ and by Sinfini Music as ‘one of the most scintillating voices to emerge of late from Ireland and the British Isles.’ Over the last 25 years he has created a body of work including large-scale orchestral works, ensemble pieces, solo works, electronic music, opera, installations and works for dance and film. In 2019 he was awarded the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Major Individual Artist Award, the highest honour awarded to an artist from the region.
Karlheinz Essl (b. 1960) is an Austrian composer, performer, improviser, media artist and composition teacher. He studied composition in Vienna with Friedrich Cerha and completed his studies in musicology with a doctoral thesis on Anton Webern. Essl was composer-in-residence at the Darmstadt Summer School (1990-94) and at IRCAM in Paris (1991-93). Between 1995-2006 he taught Algorithmic Composition at the Bruckner University in Linz. Since 2007, he has been professor of composition and electro-acoustic music at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. His work with computers and a long-term preoccupation with the poetics of serial music have been formative influences on his compositional thinking. During the 1990s he carried out various projects for the internet and became increasingly involved with improvisation. In 1997, Karlheinz Essl was a featured composer at the Salzburg Festival. His compositions are now played all over the world. Besides writing instrumental music, Karlheinz Essl also works in the areas of electronic music, interactive real-time compositions and sound installations. He develops software environments for algorithmic composition and live electronics.
Xenia Pestova Bennet about Karlheinz Essl's Gold.Berg.Werk, which blends a Bach landmark with contemporary electronics and spatialized audio.
7 Nov 2021 (Ireland)
Updated: 7 Nov 2021